New Riders Of The Purple Sage Tour History, January-April 1972 (NRPS '72 I)
The music of Jerry Garcia casts a large shadow, if a shadow that is bright rather than dark. It is so large, however, and so bright, that it outshines many things around it. In the 21st century, the New Riders of The Purple Sage are best known as the vehicle through which Jerry Garcia created an opportunity to play pedal steel guitar as a sideman in 1970 and '71. When the demands of playing full-time with both the Grateful Dead and the New Riders became too gargantuan a task, Garcia stepped aside from the Riders. For most Deadheads, that's where the story ends.
Yet the story of the New Riders of The Purple Sage was only beginning. For obvious reasons, the Riders are always compared to the Dead, and like almost every other 20th century rock band, the Dead outshone NRPS by many orders of magnitude. Compared to all the other bands struggling to make it in the early 1970s, however, the New Riders of The Purple Sage were hugely successful. After their debut album with Garcia in late 1971, they released four more albums with Buddy Cage on pedal steel in 1972 and '73. The albums sold well--Panama Red eventually was certified Gold--and the New Riders were a popular concert attraction.
On top of the Riders' undeniable success, they were also still part of the Grateful Dead's business operation. Grateful Dead tours were booked by their in-house Talent Agency, Out-Of-Town Tours, led by Sam Cutler. Cutler and Out-Of-Town also booked the New Riders. So a review of the New Riders touring history in 1972 and '73 shows both what lessons Cutler had learned from the Dead's rise to success in 1970 and '71, and also provided an avenue for Cutler to expand his relationships with promoters who worked with the Grateful Dead. So the New Riders touring schedule was both a do-over and a rehearsal for what had come before and what would come later for the Grateful Dead.
This post will begin a series on the tour history of the New Riders of The Purple Sage in 1972 and '73, with a particular emphasis on how their saga was similar to and different from that of the Grateful Dead. These posts would not have been possible without the stellar research of fellow scholar David Kramer-Smyth, whose contributions have been both deep and broad. This post will focus on the New Riders performance history from January to April, 1972 (for the next post in the series, covering May-August '72, see here). Anyone with additions, corrections, insights or just interesting speculation, please include them in the Comments. Flashbacks welcome.
|Powerglide, the second album by the New Riders of The Purple Sage, was released by Columbia in April 1972|
Status Report: New Riders of The Purple Sage, 1972
After Jerry Garcia heard Sneaky Pete Kleinow play pedal steel guitar over Owsley's sound system at the Avalon Ballroom (on the weekend of April 4-6, 1969), he bought a Zane Beck DB10 steel at Guitar City in Lakewood, CO, the next week (either April 13 or 14, 1969). He had it shipped back to the Bay Area, as the Dead were on tour. A weeks later, when he found out that old pal John Dawson had a Wednesday night coffee house gig in Menlo Park performing his own songs, Garcia showed up to practice his steel guitar chops by supporting him. Mutual friend David Nelson was invited along, and they became a band. By August of 1969, they had a drummer (Mickey Hart) and a bassist (Bob Matthews) and a name. The New Riders of The Purple Sage played tiny joints around the Bay Area for the balance of the year, and opened for the Dead once in a while, too.
Starting in May, 1970, the New Riders toured the country as the opening act for the Grateful Dead. Since Garcia (and Mickey Hart) was in the band, save for the occasional Bay Area club gig, opening for the Dead was their only real option. New bassist Dave Torbert (ex-New Delhi River Band, with Nelson) added a lot of color, but the band was boxed in by the Garcia association. Garcia himself knew it. When they spotted Buddy Cage on the legendary Canadian Festival Express tour in Summer 1970, the Riders had found their man, At the time, Cage touring with Ian & Sylvia Tyson. Later, around July 1971, by which time Cage was touring with Anne Murray ("Snowbird"), Dawson and Nelson went to Vancouver and invited him to move to the Bay Area and take Garcia's place.
By early 1971, the New Riders of The Purple Sage had been signed to Columbia and recording their debut album. Spencer Dryden (ex-Jefferson Airplane) had replaced Mickey Hart on drums, but Garcia was still in the band, and the Riders still opened most Grateful Dead shows. By the time the album was ready for release in September 1971, Cage was already in the Bay Area, rehearsing with the band. The loyal Garcia performed with the New Riders for the first leg of the tour, attracting a huge amount of attention to the band. Columbia paid up to ensure that the New Riders were broadcast on FM radio along with the Dead, so thanks to the presence of The Garcia, the New Riders weren't just another band with a new album. Garcia's last show as the Riders' steel guitarist was October 31, 1971 in Cincinnati.
Buddy Cage debuted with the New Riders of The Purple Sage on November 11, 1971. Amazingly, his debut was broadcast live on FM radio, perhaps a unique occurrence in rock history. Throughout the Fall of 1971, the New Riders of The Purple Sage toured the country with the Grateful Dead, often broadcasting live on FM radio along with them. As far as I can tell, the NRPS album got a fair amount of FM radio airplay throughout the country. It reached #39 on the Billboard charts, fairly respectable for a debut album without a big AM hit single. Still, although the New Riders had scored a successful debut, they no longer had their most high-profile member. The absence of Jerry Garcia had provided freedom, but the New Riders were going to have to make it in 1972 flying under their own power.
Nonetheless, the New Riders were still part of the Grateful Dead family, and not just socially. Initially their manager had been Jon McIntire, who also managed the Dead. McIntire had been the principal go-between for the record companies. By 1972, McIntire seemed to have little role in the New Riders affairs, however. It seems that management decisions were made by one Chesley Millikin, a London pal of Sam Cutler and a record company veteran. Road manager Dale Franklin, who had been sent over by Bill Graham, also played a critical role.
The Riders were booked by Sam Cutler, who also booked the Dead, working with a variety of talent agents. By booking two bands, Cutler had more to negotiate and thus more leverage with promoters and agents throughout the country. The Riders didn't have to worry about being left out of the mix--Cutler's principal assistant was Sally Mann Dryden, the drummer's wife (whom Cutler refers to now as "Mustang Sally," perhaps a reference to her 428ci Ford Mustang).
The New Riders of The Purple Sage, January-April 1972
John Dawson-vocals, rhythm guitar
Buddy Cage-pedal steel guitar (ex-Great Speckled Bird and Anne Murray)
David Nelson-lead guitar, vocals (ex-New Delhi River Band)
Dave Torbert-bass, vocals (ex-New Delhi River Band, Horses)
Spencer Dryden-drums (ex-Jefferson Airplane)
|SF Examiner listing, New Year's Eve 1971|
New Riders Of The Purple Sage Tour History, January-April 1972
January 2, 1972 Winterland, San Francisco, CA: Grateful Dead/New Riders of The Purple Sage/Yogi Phlegm (Sunday)
The New Riders had played with the Grateful Dead at Winterland on New Year's Eve (Friday, December 31, 1971), and they had also participated in the FM broadcast on KSAN. It must have been a surprise to fans who had bought the NRPS album to find out that Garcia was no longer in the band.Yogi Phlegm was the new (widely unpopular) name for the Sons Of Champlin. The bands skipped Saturday night (January 1) but returned Sunday night.
January 17, 1972 Wally Heider's Studio, San Francisco, CA: New Riders of The Purple Sage w/Jerry Garcia ("Lochinvar" plus 4 other tacks) 6pm and 10 pm sessions
Triangulation suggests that the New Riders recorded their follow-up album at Wally Heider's Studio in San Francisco during January of 1972. We know the date that Garcia found time to participate, namely January 17. Garcia added banjo to two numbers ("Sweet Lovin' One" and "Duncan and Brady"), and piano (of all things) to another ("Lochinvar"), but Buddy Cage handled all the pedal steel parts. John Dawson had written and sang lead on all ten songs of the debut, but this time Dave Torbert took a more prominent role, singing lead on five songs, two of which he wrote. David Nelson sang a lead as well, and Nicky Hopkins played piano on several tracks. The New Riders were still country rock, but the new album would have a much more honky-tonk feel. Powerglide would be released in April.
The New Riders had been regular performers in Bay Area rock nightclubs in 1970 and '71, mainly because those were the gigs that Jerry Garcia was available to play. Once Buddy Cage joined up, however, New Riders club dates were a lot rarer. My assumption here is that the band had some new material from recording, so they needed a few gigs to work out how they would sound live.
The Keystone Korner, at 750 Vallejo Street in San Francisco, had been one of the first clubs that had exclusively booked original rock bands since it had opened in late 1968. Since 1971, Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders had played there regularly, so booking the Riders made good sense.
|The Sunday, February 13, 1972 LA Times ad for the New Riders and the Flying Burrito Brothers playing three nights in Los Angeles|
This three-day booking in Los Angeles were the very first performances of the New Riders of The Purple Sage that were outside the Bay Area where they were not opening for the Grateful Dead. It was appropriate that the Riders shared the bill with the Flying Burrito Brothers. As mentioned above, when the Burritos had opened for the Dead at the Avalon, on the weekend of April 4-6, 1969, Jerry Garcia had been so impressed with the sound of Sneaky Pete Kleinow's pedal steel guitar that he purchased one the next week.
Three years later, the New Riders had released their Columbia debut, while the Flying Burrito Brothers had all but disintegrated. The Burritos had released 4 albums on A&M, mostly well-reviewed and influential to other musicians. Yet the Burritos had barely sold any albums and were inconsistent live. Founding members Gram Parsons, Chris Hillman and Sneaky Pete had all left. Oddly enough, the Flying Burrito Brothers were only popular in Holland, so a version of the band was reconvened for a brief European tour.
The Winter '72 Flying Burrito Brothers were lead by Rick Roberts, who had joined the band in 1970. Also on board were pedal steel guitarist Don Beck, drummer Erik Dalton (ex-Southwind) and guitarist/singer Kenny Wertz. Also in the band were fiddler Byron Berline, banjo player Alan Munde and bassist Roger Bush. Those three, along with Wertz, were also the bluegrass band Country Gazette, and they would do an acoustic mini-set as part of the Burritos. These Long Beach shows were a live warmup for the European tour (for a good taste of the 72 Burritos, see the UK-only Live In Amsterdam album on Phillips).
The New Riders were likely the headliners because they would have had the support of Columbia, whereas the Burritos were effectively without a label. Columbia probably used the gigs to hand out free tickets to local booking agents and djs, since the New Riders would have been unknown outside of Grateful Dead circles. The Fox West Coast was a converted movie theater that put on regular rock shows during this period. It was at 333 E. Ocean Blvd, now the site of the Westin Long Beach.
The Chateau Liberte was a converted resort hidden in the Santa Cruz Mountains, well off the highway. Infamous doesn't tell half the story. The actual address was 22700 Old Santa Cruz Highway in Los Gatos, but it was a long, twisting drive to any town. The Santa Cruz Mountains at the time were full of loners, oddballs, pot growers, bikers and layabouts--many of whom fit more than one description--and they all hung out at the Chateau. The swimming pool had a tile mosaic of the "Zig Zag Man."
Needless to say, rock bands enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere of the Chateau, particularly if they weren't in a hurry. For much of late 1970, Hot Tuna and the newly-formed Doobie Brothers alternated weekends. Matt Kelly's band Mountain Current also performed there regularly. The front cover of the Doobie Brothers' debut album showed the quartet seated at the Chateau bar. Hot Tuna's second album (First Pull Up, Then Pull Down) was recorded live at the Chateau Liberte, with a fuzzy interior photo of the band on stage.
As the seventies rolled on, more bands were booked at the Chateau Liberte, although getting to the club was an adventure, and apparently being there was even more so. Bands liked to play the club to work things out away from any prying eyes. The soundman at the Chateau Liberte was reputedly amenable to letting tapers plug in, so we have a surprising number of tapes from the club, given how small it was. We have a New Riders setlist, derived from a tape. Almost all the songs are from Powerglide, so the band was just working on new material. The crowd at the Chateau would have been very familiar with their first album, and when Dawson probably introduced "Henry" as he always did, saying "If you smuggle dope for a living, this one's for you," it wasn't some ironic joke.
[The Chateau Liberte closed as a rock club in the later 70s. It's now owned by a real estate agent. The Zig Zag Man still reigns in the swimming pool, by all accounts.]
|The Sacramento Bee from Sunday, February 20, 1972, advertising the upcoming show (on February 27) with the Youngbloods, Joy Of Cooking and the New Riders of The Purple Sage|
February 27, 1972 Memorial Auditorium, Sacramento, CA: Youngbloods/Joy Of Cooking/New Riders of The Purple Sage (Sunday)
The New Riders made their concert debut in the Bay Area away from the Grateful Dead by opening for the Youngbloods on a Sunday night in Sacramento. Paradoxically, the New Riders had a lower profile in the Bay Area, since they had played tiny clubs for so long. In Sacramento, they were just third on the bill.
The Youngbloods had relocated from the East Coast to Marin County in September, 1967, recognizing that their music was going to thrive in the Bay Area. Ultimately, the Youngbloods had a huge, surprise hit in Summer '69 with the song "Get Together," which they had released back in '67. The hit got the Youngbloods a huge contract with Warner Brothers, which included their own "imprint" label (Raccoon Records). The Youngbloods did well, but they never reached the heights of "Get Together" again. At this time, Jesse Colin Young had released a solo album (Together, on Raccoon). The Youngbloods would release one more album in November '72 before breaking up.
The Joy Of Cooking were a popular Berkeley band, distinguishing themselves in having two women out front. Guitarist Terry Garthwaite and pianist Toni Brown not only sang and wrote, but could jam it up like a band full of boys. The group had come out of tiny Berkeley bars like Mandrake's, and by 1972 they had released their first of three albums on Capitol.
Esteemed scholar and fellow blogger CryptDev, then a UC Santa Cruz student, recalls this event:
March 4, 1972 UCSC College V Dining Hall, Santa Cruz CA New Riders of The Purple Sage (Saturday) Presented by Dead-Shot Non-Prophet
The New Riders were still playing a few local gigs to warm up for their tour supporting their impending album release. UC Santa Cruz had only been opened in 1965, and was still fairly new. "College V" would later become Porter College, but old Banana Slugs intentionally date themselves by calling it "College Five." "Dead-Shot Non-Prophet" was a student group formed in order to produce the show.
The NRPS show at College 5 Dining Hall was pretty wonderful. There was a group called Deadshots, based out of [College V] that were hoping to bring the Dead to UCSC, and the Riders show was their first (and apparently only) foray into that direction.March 5, 1972 Winterland, San Francisco, CA: Grateful Dead/New Riders of The Purple Sage/Yogi Phlegm (Sunday) Benefit for American Indians
The show was well attended - not sure if it was sold out, but the dining hall was definitely full. They set up the stage at the western end of the dining hall, and it was your typical festival standing/seating, with a motley mix of students, mountain folk, and plain old Santa Cruz hippies. I didn't know it at the time, but the Riders had played at the Chateau Liberte a couple of weeks earlier, and a tape of that show exists. Here's the setlist from the Chateau: Brown Eyed Handsome Man / Rainbow / Lochinvar / Hello Mary Lou / Henry / California Day / Linda / Dim Lights, Thick Smoke (And Loud, Loud Music) / Sailin' / Duncan And Brady / Big Yellow Taxi / Second Set : Garden Of Eden / The Bottle Let Me Down / I Don't Need No Doctor / Runnin' Back To You / Willie And The Hand Jive.
It was a pretty similar show at UCSC - the first time I heard the riders play "Big Yellow Taxi" and of course they played most of Powerglide, including long, jammed out versions of "I Don't Need No Doctor" and "Willie and the Hand Jive." It was also the first time I had heard a live version of "Garden of Eden," which I only knew at that point from the fast Marmaduke and Friends version I had heard on KSAN. It was the first generous look I had at NRPS 2.0, with Torbert pretty much alternating lead vocals with Dawson in contrast to the 1970/71 shows where Marmaduke took the lion's share of lead vocals. Also only the second time I had heard Buddy Cage as the steel player after the 12/31/71 New Years extravaganza. I'm not sure what happened to the Deadshots, but the next time a Dead member played on campus was the Kingfish show we did three years later at Crown. Blessed with college-age vigor, I had no problem being raring to go to see the NRPS with the Dead the next night at Winterland, when the show went until Graham called curfew at 2 AM. Those were the days.
The Grateful Dead put on a benefit for "American Indians" on Sunday, March 5, joined by the New Riders and the Sons Of Champlin (then using the name Yogi Phlegm). Three members of the Sons were stuck in traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge, and were not available when the Sons were due to come on stage. A furious Bill Graham told Bill Champlin and drummer Bill Vitt to find a guitarist and a bassist and to get on stage, or they would never play one of his shows again. An anxious Champlin corralled his friends Jerry Garcia and Phil Lesh, who jammed the blues with them for a few numbers--at their own show--until the rest of the band made it.
|SF Examiner listing for Thursday, March 23, 1972|
March 23-24, 1972 Keystone Berkeley, Berkeley, CA: New Riders of The Purple Sage (Thursday-Friday)
Keystone Korner owner Freddie Herrera took over a Frat pizza-and-beer joint called The New Monk and turned it into the Keystone Berkeley. Much larger than the San Francisco club, the Keystone Berkeley would become the home base for Jerry Garcia and all the Grateful Dead satellites. The Keystone Berkeley had only opened on March 1, 1972, and the New Riders were booked for two shows there later in the month.
|David Nelson at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, CA on March 26, 1972 (from The Mustang Daily, Apr 28 '72)|
One lesson that Sam Cutler had learned from helping the Grateful Dead tour their way back to solvency in 1970 and '71 was the value of playing colleges. In the early 70s, many colleges had "entertainment budgets" designed to bring artists and performers to campus. Typically, some hippies would get on the "entertainment committee" and lobby for some hip rock bands. Since the college had funding, ticket sales only had to cover part of the cost, and the bands got paid well. On top of that, if a band played a college, all sorts of curious undergraduates would show up--at a lot of colleges, there was nothing to do at night--so a good band made new fans.
The California State Polytechnic University in San Luis Obispo, known as "Cal Poly," had been chartered by the state of California in 1901. By 1960, it had become part of the California State College system (along with San Jose State, San Francisco State and so on). The school had continued to grow and is generally seen as the most prestigious school of the CSU system. Today the school has 22,000 students, although I don't know how many it had back in '72. San Luis Obispo is beautiful, but there isn't much to do there if you are young and restless, so undergraduates would be inclined to see any band coming to campus. The New Riders were playing The Men’s Gym, a fairly large 3,000-capacity venue built in 1960. A local bluegrass band was the opening act. Here's how the New Riders were described in the student paper:
ROCK CONCERT SLATED SUNDAY EVENING
The New Riders of the Purple Sage, a country rock group that rode to prominence with the Grateful Dead will appear in the Men's Gym at Cal Poly at 8 p.m. on Sunday (March 26). The concert is being sponsored by the Assemblies Committee of the Associated Students, Inc.
The New Riders of the Purple Sage, featuring strings and drums, play country music with a rock beat to it. They appear as a warm-up group for the Grateful Dead. The New Riders record on the Columbia label.
The concert is open to the public. General admission is $2.50 for college students and $3.50 for all others. Tickets will be on sale in the College Union Plaza during registration on Thursday and Friday (March 23-24) and at the door.
A review of the show a few days after was modestly positive, although it's clear that the writer had only barely heard of the band (the venue is now known as Mott's Gym).
Richie Havens/Kris Kristofferson/Country Joe McDonald/New Riders of The Purple Sage/Linda Ronstadt/Earl Scruggs Review/John Prine/Dave Von Ronk/McKendree Spring/Goose Creek Symphony/Keith Sykes/David Rea/Ramblin Jack Elliott/Rosalie Sorrells/Bob Brown/Mick Greenwood
Powerglide, the second album by the New Riders of The Purple Sage, was released by Columbia Records in April, 1972. Release dates were not precise in the early 70s, and on-stage comment from John Dawson (on the April 13 tape) suggested that the album wouldn't be generally distributed until mid-April. As the tour started the album would have already been available to FM radio stations, and probably some of the hipper stores were already selling it.
The New Riders touring schedule was modeled on the Grateful Dead's touring schedule back in 1970, when the Dead were trying to get Workingman's Dead heard and build a fan base. The key was to get heard by as many young rock fans as possible, both through FM airplay and concentrating on certain areas. Since the Dead were popular in the Northeast, the initial tour focused on colleges and college towns where the Grateful Dead already had a footprint.
The tour began at a 2-day weekend indoor "folk festival" at the College Of William & Mary. College students were not inclined to "country music," but "folk" didn't have a redneck connotation. As a practical matter, I assume that the New Riders played Saturday, April 8. Note that the Grateful Dead would return themselves to the College Of William & Mary in September, 1973.
Cherry Hill is near Camden, just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, so the town was part of the Philadelphia Metropolitan area. The Grateful Dead had been establishing themselves in Philly since April 1970. It made sense to start building the New Riders fanbase there.
There weren't that many hippie "San Francisco bands" actually touring, so Hot Tuna, the New Riders and Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen were often booked together in various combinations around the country.
April 12, 1972 Clark Gym, SUNY Buffalo, Buffalo, NY: New Riders of The Purple Sage/Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen (Wednesday) 2 shows 8 & 11:30
Clark Gym at SUNY Buffalo was built in 1948. I don't know the exact capacity but I don't think it was very large. The fact that there were two shows was a sign that there was some demand. In the case of SUNY Buffalo, I think they also sold tickets to rock fans around town, not just students. Harvey Weinstein (later a film producer and convicted rapist) was a SUNY Buffalo student around this time, soon to become a major concert promoter in the Buffalo area, so he may have had some contact with Sam Cutler at this time. Certainly the Dead were slowly building an audience in the Buffalo area, and having the New Riders pass through could only help.
|The concert listings from the April 13, 1972 edition of Tangerine, the Utica College student newspaper|
April 13, 1972 Women's Gym, Syracuse U, Syracuse, NY: New Riders of The Purple Sage (Thursdays Early and Late shows) broadcast WAER-fm
This Thursday night show in Syracuse is interesting for any number of reasons. Firstly, the show was broadcast in its entirety on WAER-fm, the Syracuse University radio station, so we have an excellent tape. It's a great snapshot of the Riders on tour in the East, mixing together most of the debut album with a number of songs from Powerglide. John Dawson is still the primary singer, but Dave Torbert took the lead every fourth song or so.
David Kramer-Smyth found a listing for the show (in the Utica College paper--above), and the show was held at the Syracuse University Women's Gym. Confusingly, the tape of the show has been listed as "Manley Field House, Le Moyne College," which is a contradiction. LeMoyne College is a long-established Jesuit College in Syracuse, whereas Manley Field House was the basketball arena for Syracuse University, about 3 miles West of LeMoyne. We know that the show was broadcast on WAER, as the introducing dj's mention the station, but they didn't say where they are.
The Women's Gym, now known as Women's Building A, was the center for Women's Sports at Syracuse up until 1982. The men's basketball team played in nearby Manley Field House, a 5400-capacity gym. By 1980, the men's team had moved to the Carrier Dome, and in 1982 the Women's team moved to Manley Field House. Somehow, "Women's Gym" got retconned into Manley Field House. I don't know the capacity of the building, but eyeballing the current facility it was probably barely 1000, which seems right for two New Riders shows in 1972.
My current theory is that LeMoyne College was producing the show at nearby Syracuse University. WAER was the Syracuse U radio station, but since the event was on campus it would not have mattered much if it was "sponsored" by someone else. The Grateful Dead were also building an audience in Syracuse, having played at the Onandoga War Memorial in downtown Syracuse on October 27, 1971. That show, too, had been broadcast on WAER. Jerry Garcia had also played with Howard Wales in Syracuse back in January, so the New Riders would have benefited from the prior Dead association.
In the between-song patter, John Dawson says "an Irish Friend reminds me that we have a record coming out next week." This is surely a reference to Chesley Millikin. Millikin was subsequently Sam Cutler's second-in-command at Out-Of-Town Tours, and while his exact duties remain a mystery, he later seems to have functioned as the New Riders' booking agent. Although Dawson is noting that Millikin said he should tell the audience to go out and buy the album, it's not plain whether this was a general directive or if Millikin was actually in the house. In any case, Dawson tells the crowd that Powerglide will be in stores "by next week." The album would reach #33 in the Billboard charts.
This Friday night show was presented by Union College, a 2000-student liberal arts college founded in 1795. Proctor's Theater, capacity 3250, had opened back in 1926. Back in the first part of the 20th century, Schenectady had been an important commercial and manufacturing center, with General Electric and other major companies. The city and region declined from the 1950s onward, however, so large old theaters like Proctor's were available for rock shows. Union College students seem to have rented the theater to put on the show.
David Kramer-Smyth did find an ad for the New Riders at the "Wisconsin Folk Festival" in Madison for the weekend of April 14 and 15. It was produced by Free Flow Productions and Web LTD, and featured the same headliners as the Virginia Folk Festival (April 7-8, above). The New Riders were initially advertised, but later there was no mention of them, either in ads or the review. They were probably booked for Saturday (April 15) and then withdrew. Since they would have had to fly from Schenectady to Madison, hardly a direct flight, it may simply have not been worth it.The Proctor's show was reviewed in the SUNY Albany paper a few days later (April 18 1972)
Flying high on their music were the New Riders themselves, their warmth and friendliness, coupled with their obvious enjoyment of their now show, summoned up a healthy dose of those special "Live Dead" vibes. After nearly two hours of playing live they were still rocking on strong when midnight struck and the theater manager turned into a pumpkin, forcing them into an abrupt finale. Despite that (which the Union College people assure me won't happen again; they'd rented the theater "for the day" and didn't realize that the management would be quite so literal about it.. Next time round they'll have it covered). It was a lovely evening.
The concert business has really changed by the early 70s. In the late 60s, bands were focused on making a profit on the road. By the early 70s, record companies had figured out that there was huge money in hit rock albums, so touring was seen as an engine to generate radio play and record sales. Record companies would support their bands that had new albums by buying ads or running promotions in underground papers or on local FM stations. They would also subsidize the tours in various ways--the usual term was "Tour Support"--by covering certain expenses, like airline tickets or hotel rooms. This meant that bands only had to break even on the road, covering their day-to-day costs, so they could afford to take chances on smaller gigs. Of course, this wasn't charity--the record companies charged the Tour Support costs against future royalties. But if an album became a big hit, a few plane tickets weren't going to matter.
For rock fans in the early 70s (like me), that meant that lots of good bands were touring around the country, deficit-financed by their record companies. You could be in any large or medium sized city in America, or most college campuses, and see a "real band" with an album, whether were from England, New York or California. The New Riders were probably getting plenty of tour support on their 1972 tours, because Columbia wanted to build on their hit debut album. As a result, the New Riders didn't have to worry if their touring entirely made financial sense.
Second on the bill in Schenectady, and opening various Riders' dates throughout April was Tranquility, a band on Epic (a sister label to
Columbia), getting a big promotional push from CBS. As I recall, Tranquility was an English quartet or quintet (not sure) that played sort of sophisticated guitar pop, somewhat like Badfinger.
Tranquility--who could very well have been good, I don't know--seemed to have a burgeoning American following, and were getting a big push from the record
company. Tranquility may have been a very enjoyable act, but even at the
time it was noted that record company promotions like this pushed out
local bands. In the Fillmore days, the best local bands would open for
touring headliners and get heard, but that happened less when big
companies were promoting their new albums. Tranquility opened for various CBS acts in the Spring, including the Byrds, and did well enough that Epic would support a second album (Silver) and a Fall tour, but ultimately they never made it over the top.
April 15, 1972 Kenyon Hall, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY: New Riders of The Purple Sage/Orleans (Saturday)
On a Saturday night, the New Riders were headlining at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, just 95 miles South of Schenectady. Vassar had been founded as a private liberal arts Women's College back in 1861, and was one of the original "Seven Sisters," Women's Colleges that had served as a sort of separatist Ivy League for women. By 1969, Vassar had gone co-ed, but men weren't yet a huge portion of the student body. Kenyon Hall, built in 1934, was the Vassar gym, with a capacity of about 1200.
Reviewer Michael Kimmel in the Vassar student paper--it says so much that the Vassar rock critic was a man--had high expectations for the New Riders. His opinion was that the New Riders were good, but not transcendent. Tranquility was apparently originally booked as the opening act (a Billboard Tranquility ad includes this date), but according to the review, the opening act was Orleans. Orleans was a quartet from Woodstock, NY, at the time unsigned, but who would later go on to great success. Guitarist and singer John Hall was the best-known member (along with Larry and Lance Hoppen and drummer Wells Kelly). Orleans was playing around the club circuit, and was known informally as "the best unsigned band in the Northeast." In this case, they took over the slot that had been reserved for Tranquility. In previous years, the opening slot at a small college show would have inevitably gone to a local band, but now that was no sure thing. Orleans would release their debut album on ABC in Fall 1973 and ultimately have a big hit with "Still The One."
|Newsday (April 15 '72) listing for the Hofstra show on April 18, 1972|
April 18 1972 Hofstra University Playhouse, Hempstead NY: New Riders of The Purple Sage (Tuesday)
The Grateful Dead were well-established in Long Island, so booking the New Riders there made good sense. The Hofstra University Playhouse was an 1105-seat theater on the Hofstra campus.
April 20, 1972 [venue], Stony Brook, NY: New Riders of The Purple Sage (Thursday)
The New Riders continued their tour of Long Island with a show at Stony Brook. The Grateful Dead had played Stony Brook in 1967, '68 and Halloween '70. The Riders had opened there in 1970, so they would have been somewhat of a known quantity, compared to some places.
We may be missing some additional nights for the New Riders in April, as a touring band always tried to work Friday and Saturday nights.
The Passiac Herald-News (Friday Apr 21 '72) list the New Riders at both the Capitol Theater on Saturday and Princeton on Monday
Once Bill Graham stopped booking the Fillmore East, the door opened for rock shows in Northern New Jersey. John Scher, from West Orange, NJ, began booking shows at the Capitol Theater in Passaic. The Capitol, at 326 Monroe Street, had been built in 1921 and had a capacity of 3,200. By late 1970, it was showing "adult" films. Scher and his partner Al Hayward booked their first rock show at the Capitol on December 16, 1971 (J. Geils Band/Humble Pie). Scher would go on to dominate the New Jersey rock concert market for several decades.
Scher would have a crucial relationship with Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead. Scher not only promoted many Garcia and Dead shows himself, from the 1980s onward, Scher's company booked all Grateful Dead and Garcia shows East of the Mississippi (Bill Graham handled the West). So the relationship with Scher was essential to the historical success of the Grateful Dead. Yet the very first contact between the Dead organization and Scher was when the New Riders headlined the Capitol Theater in April of 1972, right when Powerglide was actually released.
Booking agents often work through intermediaries, with agents from different regions cooperating and sharing fees. So it's not impossible that the initial contact between Sam Cutler and John Scher was indirect. Nonetheless, things must have gone well. Three months after the Captiol show, Scher and Hayward were booking the Grateful Dead at an old stadium in Jersey City (July 18 '72 at Roosevelt Stadium), and the long history of the Dead and John Scher began. The Jersey City show must have been planned soon after the Riders played the Capitol, so something good happened there. Note that there are early and late shows at the Capitol, so ticket sales must have been pretty good. The Passaic newspaper listing (above) also mentions that the two shows in Princeton were sold out. Now, Alexander Hall at Princeton (capacity 1100) was a lot smaller than the Capitol, but that's still a lot of tickets sold for a band that had just released its second album.
Also billed at the Capitol show was Dr. John. Dr. John had just released Gumbo, his fifth album on Atco, marking a move away from being an eccentric to a traditional New Orleans musician with a rock twist.
One theme of the New Riders’ April ‘72 tour supporting Powerglide was how it revisited some of the touchstones of the Grateful Dead’s successful touring in 1971. Sam Cutler had done this before for the Dead, and it had worked out very well, so it was smart to draw from the same playbook. Back on April 10, 1971, the Grateful Dead and the New Riders had played Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, PA. Lancaster was in Amish country, about an hour West of Philadelphia (great pretzels out there, trust me). The gig had been part of the Dead’s strategic assault on the Philadelphia Metro area, which would lead to the Dead becoming a perennial attraction in Philadelphia. The strategy, conceived by Rock Scully, was to play the outlying areas to build interest on FM radio.
Franklin and Marshall was a highly regarded liberal arts school of about 2000 students. There would have been a lot of students from the Philadelphia suburbs, so playing there was also a way to build a future audience in the City. In this case, the New Riders would have actually played the school the year before, so some of the underclassmen might have remembered the band's name. In 1971, the Dead’s gig had been facilitated by Philadelphia’s Electric Factory, who also booked the Spectrum and were the principal promoters for the region. No doubt the return gig for the Riders at F&M helped Cutler keep his relationships with the Electric Factory in tune. On September 21, 1972 (and then again on March 24, 1973) the Dead would play for the Electric Factory at the giant Spectrum, home of the NBA 76ers and NHL Flyers. The Dead would go on to rule the Spectrum, so these relationships were important.
April 24, 1972 Alexander Hall, Princeton, NJ: New Riders of The Purple Sage (Monday 8pm-11pm shows)
Back on Saturday, April 17, 1971, the Grateful Dead and the New Riders had played Dillon Gym at Princeton University, one of the most legendary gigs in Dead history. All of the 1971 college shows were outright bangers, mostly, and many people got On The Bus right then. The difference was that Princeton (then as now) was at the vortex of American cultural hegemony, so the young men who burned some fat ones and danced all night went on to the State Department or Wall Street. So it was no surprise to see the New Riders reappear at Princeton almost exactly a year later. Similar to F&M, there would have been plenty of undergraduates who could have vouched for the New Riders.
In the early 1970s, numerous rock bands played at Princeton. The reason, peculiarly, was Bill Graham. Bill Graham’s contracts at the Fillmore East (like almost all rock promoters) prevented a booked band from playing any advertised show within 50 miles of the East Village within 3 weeks of the show date (or some criteria approximating that). Since Fillmore East booked everyone, Graham effectively crushed any nascent rock promotions in Northern New Jersey from 1968-71. An exception to this rule was shows presented by colleges that were not advertised off campus. This specific exemption was what had allowed the Grateful Dead to play old Jadwin Gym (built 1949, capacity 3200) in 1971 just a week before their Fillmore East booking. The show was only “promoted” in the Princeton school newspaper, and sold out instantly.
As a result of the Fillmore East clause, bands played Princeton (and other schools) constantly in 1970 and ‘71. Princeton had money for entertainment, so ticket sales didn’t have to cover all of the costs. Lots of great acts played there. Princeton had enough money to pay for bigger acts on occasion, even when the venues were small. Until John Scher got fully established in 1974, touring bands regularly played the school. The New Riders played Alexander Hall, built in 1892. It seated about 1100. As noted in the Passaic clipping above, the early show was sold out, so things must have gone well.
|April 26, 1972 at the Boston Music Hall (from The Globe). The New Riders, in between showings of a the "Blacksploitation" movie Cool Breeze|
April 26, 1972 Boston Music Hall, Boston, MA: New Riders of The Purple Sage/Tranquility (Wednesday)
The Boston Music Hall, at 268 Tremont Street, had been built in 1925 as the Metropolitan Theater. It had been renamed the Boston Music Hall in 1962. Boston Music Hall had a capacity (at the time) of 4225, large for the era (now, as The Wang Theater, the capacity is around 3500). Performers included the Ballet and Symphony as well as music acts. In the 60s, rock bands had played a place called The Back Bay Theater, but it had been torn down in 1968. After that, big rock acts played Boston Music Hall. The Grateful Dead would go on to play the Music Hall numerous times in the 1970s.
The Boston Music Hall was not booked by a single promoter, but was just available for rent. The Dead had played Boston Music Hall for Howard Stein in April, 1971, and for unknown promoters in December, 1971. In September of 1972, the Dead would play the theater for Cable Music, part of their long relationship with promoter Jim Koplik. But I don't know who promoted the April 1972 New Riders show.
At this time, the Boston Music Hall was mainly a movie theater. During this week, per the Boston Globe (above), the feature was a "Blacksploitation" crime flick called Cool Breeze. It does not sound like a very good movie. In this case, the 8:00 showing was replaced by the New Riders. Tranquility listed this show in their Billboard ad, so presumably they opened the show. Keep in mind, even if the New Riders did not sell out the hall--I'm sure they didn't, on a weeknight--they still got more money than they would have if they had been just doing nothing.
April 28, 1972 Meehan Hall, Brown U, Providence, RI: Mahavishnu Orchestra/New Riders of The Purple Sage (Friday) superseded?
Brown University was founded in 1764, and it is located in downtown Providence. Indeed, I think it precedes downtown itself. Meehan Auditorium is the 3000-capacity hockey facility, and the largest indoor facility at the school. It opened in 1961 at Hope Street and Lloyd Avenue. As a lesson in 1970s rock economics, the Mahavishnu Orchestra had opened for Jerry Garcia (with Howard Wales) a few months earlier, and now as Mahavishnu's album became hotter, the New Riders were opening for them. Howard Wales, Mahavishnu and the New Riders were all on Columbia, so record company support was easier to come by when the label could share promotional costs.
The seemingly strange pairing of the New Riders and Mahavishnu makes more sense if you consider that the University was probably striving to get a cross-section of undergraduates. Note the descriptions from that day's Brown Daily Record (from David Kramer-Smyth's stellar research):
John Mclaughlin & the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Fri. 8 p.m.Meehan. Intense synthesis of jazz, rock, classical, blues and Eastern music, lead with spiritual conviction by dynamic guitarist McLaughlin, who sees his music as "an offering to the supreme being."April 29, 1972 [venue], Bayside Community College, Bayside, Queens, NY: New Riders of The Purple Sage/Tranquility (Saturday)
NEW RIDERS of the Purple Sage. Fri.. 8 p.m.. Meehan. A light, peppy. Poco-like brand of country-rock-western, guaranteed to have you bouncing in your seat.
The Tranquility ad has them supporting the New Riders at Bayside Community College. Bayside was 222-05 56th Street in Bayside, in Queens. The school had been founded in 1959, and by 1965 it was part of CUNY. A Saturday night gig at a Community College followed the Cutler playbook, building fans one gig at a time, while covering expenses.
The Tranquility Billboard ad also has them supporting the New Riders on Sunday at Brown (April 30), but since the Riders opened for Mahavisnu on Friday (above) that must have been changed.
May 1 1972 Palace Theatre Waterbury CT New Riders of The Purple Sage/Henry Gross (Monday) Produced by Web LTD
Web LTD had booked the New Riders for the "Folk Festival" shows in Virginia on April 8 (above), and they also booked a Monday night at a now-legendary venue called the Palace Theater in Waterbury, CT. Waterbury is between Hartford (33 miles to the Northeast) and New York City (77 miles to the Southwest). It had (and has) a population of around 110,000. In the first half of the 20th century, it was a thriving industrial city. From the 60s onward, however, Waterbury underwent a severe economic decline. As a rock peculiarity, however, Waterbury had a large movie theater from its glory days, and easy freeway access from larger areas. The Palace Theater, at 100 E. Main Street in downtown, had been built in 1922. By the early 1970s, it wasn't apparently in great shape, but it had a capacity of a few thousand and fantastic acoustics. It went from being an oversized movie house to a destination rock concert venue.
In the early 1970s, bands figured out that in order to make touring profitable, they had to play as many nights as possible with reasonably short trips in between. If a band on a road had, for example, a lucrative weekend booking in Manhattan, and another the next weekend in Boston, they had to do something in between that paid. A night or two at a place like Waterbury was perfect. It was just far enough from major cities that it didn't tread on the major bookings, and attracted fans who wouldn't (or couldn't) go to a big-city show. FM radio was everywhere, anyway, and there were plenty of kids in the suburbs who wanted to see the bands that played Manhattan or Boston. Whoever owned the aging Palace Theater would have been happy to rent it out profitably, unconcerned if some hippies might do a little damage. All the good touring bands of the 1970s played the Palace in Waterbury, some of them many times.I doubt the New Riders sold that many tickets on a Monday night, but on the road it may not have mattered. If they covered their expenses, then it was better than just spending the night in a hotel. Sam Cutler, meanwhile, would have learned about the Palace, and the Dead would return there in September.
Henry Gross had been the original guitarist in Sha Na Na, appearing at Woodstock, but by 1972 he had gone to a more conventional solo career. He had just released his debut album on ABC/Dunhill. In 1976, Gross would have a big hit with his song "Shannon."
May 2, 1972 Academy Of Music, New York, NY: New Riders of The Purple Sage/Alex Taylor/Tranquility (Tuesday-8:00 and 11:30 pm)
The Academy of Music at 126 E. 14th Street, near Greenwich Village, had opened as an movie theater back in 1926. The 3500-seat venue had been used intermittently for rock concerts in the 1960s, but had mostly been a movie theater. Promoter Howard Stein (1945-2007) had been putting on shows at the Capitol Theater in Port Chester, just outside the City, in 1970 and '71. When the Fillmore East closed in June, 1971, Stein took over the The Academy of Music. Stein had been promoting rock shows in the New York area throughout the 1960s. The Academy of Music would change its name to the Palladium in 1976. In the 1980s, Stein would move away from the rock concert business and into the nightclub business, opening some legendary New York discos. Back in '71, however, Stein was a key promoter filling the void left by Bill Graham's departure.
In March of 1972, the Grateful Dead had played six shows in seven nights at the The Academy of Music (Hot Tuna filled in the other night), a legendary event in Deadhead history. In this case, Cutler would have been able to have the New Riders provide a kind of encore to the six sold-out Dead shows in March.
Tranquility opened the show. In the middle of the bill was Alex Taylor, the older brother of James. Alex had a more bluesy sound than James, and he just released Dinnertime, his second album on Capricorn. Since Capricorn was the Allman Brothers label, it's not surprising to see other labelmates on the album, like Chuck Leavell, Tommy Talton and Jaimoe.
Following their Northeastern tour, the New Riders of The Purple Sage headed off to England and Europe, including hooking up with the Grateful Dead for the end of their epic Europe '72 tour.
New Riders of The Purple Sage Status Report, May 1972
By May of 1972, the New Riders of The Purple Sage were a fully separate musical entity from the Grateful Dead, while retaining the family and business ties. Powerglide, their second Columbia album, and first without Jerry Garcia, had been released in mid-April. The New Riders had toured the Northeast that month, prime territory for newly-minted Deadheads from the hard touring the Dead and the Riders had done the previous few years. In May, the New Riders would once again travel on the Grateful Dead path, touring England, the Netherlands and Germany.